Crazy for Color – The Sweaters

by stephen on March 14, 2014

I long for a day when I have as many handknit sweaters as shawls. I’ve knit hundreds of shawls within the last 6 years or so and I have about 80 still in my possession. My sweater stash looks sad in comparison to my overflowing shawl shelves and drawers. The Crazy for Color collection allowed me to go crazy with sweaters and I love wearing all of these new creations.

The Amazing Technicolor Dreamsweater and Starring work with the same sideways construction and shoulder detail.

They’re both boxy silhouettes with tight sleeves. The Amazing Technicolor Dreamsweater’s style is a bit more simple with moss stitch on the sleeves and body and I held two strands of fingering weight yarn together for a worsted weight gauge.

I gathered a big pile of stash yarns and accumulated a few new colors while I knit and traveled around Iceland during the holidays.

Many colors are naturally dyed Icelandic wool by Guðrún Bjarnadóttir.

The process was an addicting exploration in combining colors. It’s fascinating to mix strands of yarn together and witness the color effects. It’s like playing with water colors. A color transforms depending on what color you hold it together with.

About six or seven days later, I had a new sweater. I told you it was addicting!

I wove in some of the ends, but decided to leave many hanging in front. Less work, more style.

I decided to knit another style based on the Dreamsweater with creamy white worsted weight Icelandic wool. The fiber was prepared by Guðrún and sent to Belgium for spinning. I started the sleeve at the airport in Reykjavik and kept increasing on the sideways body until I reached the other sleeve. A long asymmetrical tail hangs in front and it can be fastened to the back with a button.

I added light and bright color blocks and threw in more pops of color with a crocheted edge, crocheted stars, and short fringe outlining the shoulders.

Starring is definitely a one-of-a-kind sweater and I can’t wait to see how others interpret the style and color choices.

I injected lots of color into the more traditional pullover silhouette of Reis.

I started the body and sleeves with Jill Draper Makes Stuff Mohonk, the most delicious cormo yarn I’ve ever encountered. Her color sense is spot on and I love the hand dyed colors on rustic squishy soft wool.

Once I completed the slip stitch pattern on the body and sleeves, I was ready to join all the pieces for the yoke. I originally planned to knit the entire pullover with raglan shaping in the slip stitch pattern, but I grew tired of the texture and decided to toss in several stash yarns for a stranded circular yoke instead.

I was so happy with this choice because I got to use some of my favorite color cravings like royal blue bright yellow, and mint green.

Royally Striped was another garment that scratched my royal blue itch.

It’s also an example of an idea that changed during the knitting process. I cast on for the black and white short wedges and knit a long striped rectangle ending with more short row wedges. I imagined a large scarf or shawl full of stripes. Once I knit the long scarf shape I was ready to pick up stitches, but wasn’t feeling the shawl idea anymore so I picked up a portion of stitches and knit a rectangular back piece.

After that, I just added rectangular side panels, a couple short sleeves, and two solid short row borders all in garter stitch.

The resulting shape is very flattering and drapey. Plus, it can be flipped upside down for a different style.

The last Crazy for Color garment is another shape shifter, Penguono. It’s a short sleeved jacket with big boxy proportions and loads of colorful stripes.

Flipped upside down, the jacket transforms into a longer coat with soft curves framing the booty.

There are six recommended gauges for you to achieve six different sizes. I mostly used yarns held together to get an XXL size with a chunky gauge. For example, I held worsted weight together with a fingering weight yarn or two strands of DK weight together.

This is my new favorite handknit. The pastels are so fun and fresh and I love the glamorously oversized shape.

My first Penguono was knit with a darker color family and has rows of thick fringe on the back for drama, drama, and more drama.

Many sweaters that I see are simple, commercial, and very boring. Sleek and simple is fine, but why does that have to be the default style? When I can knit anything imaginable by hand it’s fun to go all the way. Large colorful statement sweaters like these are wonderful wardrobe additions. They’re very special and emotional pieces, not for the faint of heart. After indulging many of my Crazy for Color choices, I realize that I desire more calm and neutral colors too. More and more, I find that style and choice making are full of contradictions which is very exciting. I’m still in a heavily patterned and vibrantly colored mood so I imagine many more crazy colorful sweaters in my near future.

Spring and summer is coming and linen and silk yarns are on my mind. I’m craving more drapey oversized shapes and smaller cropped silhouettes too. Also, now that I have a drawer full of new sweaters, I’m starting several new shawl designs as if I need even more shawls! I absolutely need more shawls by the way, hundreds and hundreds of shawls.

What types of colors and garments are grabbing your attention these days?

Photos & Makeup: Stephen West
Necklaces: Cakes & Troubles

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I just completed a new e-book called Crazy for Color! It’s a collection of 10 new garments and accessories focused on playing with color and mixing different yarns and fibers together.

You can access the whole collection for $20 USD

Two of the first designs use 2-color brioche. I quickly became obsessed with this cushy stitch pattern after taking a class with the Queen of Brioche, Nancy Marchant, at Penelope Craft in Amsterdam.

Precocious Briocheous is a simple quirky hat that can be worn all sorts of ways.

It’s knit back and forth with some increases and ends with a garter stitch band. Then the side and top of the hat are seamed, resulting in cozy little devil horns. I used a worsted weight wool for the blue/gray and a creamy alpaca. I love the reversibility and squishy softness of brioche stitch and it’s a great gauge match with garter stitch.

My friendly Reykjavik companion, Laura, helped get the hat started. Friends help friends knit brioche and pose for instagram selfies.

My love affair with brioche stitch continued with an enormous worsted weight striped scarf, Bundled in Brioche.

I used a total of 9 colors from my stash including one of my current color obsessions, royal blue. I acquired several skeins of Orkney Angora St. Magnus DK in the Ultramarine color from Loop in London and used it in several of Crazy for Color garments. I can’t get enough of that vibrant blue!

This scarf was my best friend in Reykjavik during the New Year because of the lofty fabric that traps warmth. Here I am bundled in brioche with exploding geysers!

I knit a semi-circular shawl called Rising Dawn with two skeins of Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20. My mom, Dawn, designed the beautiful colorway and I was so surprised when I saw it because it’s totally a color I would have chosen.

The slip stitch pattern is perfect for variegated yarns. It’s not too fussy and it gives the fabric a woven look.

I shared my first pants pattern, Cushy Tushy, in the Crazy for Color collection in a not so crazy color, black.

I used to never knit with black and I didn’t own any black clothing either. I opted for browns or bright colors instead, but I’m coming to appreciate the sleek simplicity of black and incorporating it into some of my color palettes. Having more colors in your repertoire expands your options for mixing and matching outfits.

The pattern is written for a chunky yarn. I held Léttlopi together with a mohair boucle to get a chunky fuzzy texture. The fabric is soft and cozy. Sometimes lopi gets a bad rap for being itchy and scratchy, but I find it to be just fine. It helps to wear it in less humid climates.

I have a couple pairs of handknit pants now along with some sassy shorts that are coming later this spring. Owning knit bottoms will change your life because you open the possibility for wearing handknits from head to toe. Super cozy and super duper stylish!

Knit pants also look excellent while busting sweet dance moves.

One can never have enough hats so I whipped up a quick seed stitch hat in my favorite slouchy style.

The Starry-Eyed Slouch eats ups all those little bits of scrap yarn. I held a DK weight strand of black wool/angora together with fingering and lace weight scraps for a stripey marled look.

The crocheted stars are added afterward using this handy dandy Westknits video tutorial. You could even add the stars to an already finished hat!

And of course a pom pom is popped on top. Pom pom it!

And pose in your rhinestones.

The amazing rhinestone and feather necklaces shown in this collection are all by Cakes & Troubles.

Next up, I’ll share all the Crazy for Color sweaters!

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I spent the first two weeks of July in the Philippines with the Ricefield Collective. It was my first trip to Asia and I had a blast. First of all, the trip was full of beautiful landscapes. Each view was better than the last. We stayed in the Ifugao region with all those stunning rice […]

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